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Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Behavior Therapy (BT) show some effect in relieving the disability associated with chronic pain.

In a Cochrane Systematic Review, researchers assessed the use of CBT and BT on chronic pain, mood, and disability.

“For people with chronic pain, psychological therapies can reduce depression and anxiety, disability, and in some cases pain, but guidance is still required on the best type and duration of treatment,” says lead researcher Christopher Eccleston, at the Centre for Pain Research at the University of Bath.

Both CBT and BT try to manage pain by addressing the associated psychological and practical processes. Cognitive behavior therapy involves the avoidance of negative thoughts. Behavior therapy helps patients to understand how they can change their behavior in order to reduce pain.

Both approaches have been in development for around 40 years and are sometimes recommended for patients with longlasting, distressing pain that cannot be relieved by conventional medicines.

In a systematic review, researchers considered the results of 40 trials of CBT and BT, which included 4,781 patients in total. Patients suffering from pain due to any cause, except headache, migraine, or cancer, were included.

Most studies were of cognitive behavior therapy, which showed small positive effects on pain, disability, and mood. There was less evidence for behavior therapy, which the researchers say had no effect on disability or mood.

“Although there is overall promise for cognitive behavior therapy in chronic pain, the term covers a diverse range of treatment and assessment procedures. Right now, we are not able to say which specific features of therapy may be critical for improvement of a patient’s condition,” says Eccleston.

According to the researchers, simpler studies of cognitive behavior therapy and behavior therapy that focus on a purer form of treatment, rather than a variety of mixed methods, would benefit the field.

Source: Wiley-Blackwell

Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Pain. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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